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New year brings fresh hope for Camp
A secure bullpen job is secondary to the second-year Ray as his wife prepares to have a son a year after a traumatic loss.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published March 27, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - This is the time when Rays pitcher Shawn Camp realizes the odds are determined by numbers-crunchers, not real-life miracles.
This time last year, Camp - a Tampa Bay newcomer without a track record of success - had an outside shot at winning a bullpen job. And his mind was anywhere but on the mound as his wife, Heidi, had lost the couple's first baby with a burst fallopian tube. She would need two surgeries and multiple blood transfusions. He was fighting for a job. She was fighting for her life.
Now, it's all much different.
"I was just going through the motions last spring," Camp said. "If you had to ask me five hitters I faced last year in spring training, I couldn't have told you. Now I know the five hitters I'm going to face."
After a club-record 75 appearances for the Rays last season, Camp is one of the few relievers with a secure job this spring. He has resurrected his career in Tampa Bay. And after a slow recovery, Heidi is in her 19th week of a healthy pregnancy.
"We're bringing a child into this earth, and it's just an unbelievable feeling," Shawn said. "It's a motivation. I'm just proud of her, how she's come through all this."
Doctors told the Camps there was a 70 percent chance the same would happen if they tried to get pregnant again. To Heidi, 25, it was worth the chance. Concerned for his wife, Shawn wasn't so sure. Internally, he did his own number crunching, and combining normal miscarriage rates gave her only a 15 percent shot of a successful pregnancy. He wasn't sure it was worth it.
"It was a big negative from the get go," Shawn, 31, said. "We didn't know what we were going to have to do. At one point, we were thinking about adopting. I'm not getting any younger."
But one day in the offseason, Heidi woke up Shawn at 7:30 a.m. with a smile. "Are you ready to be a daddy again?" she asked. Initially, it was a high-risk pregnancy, but once the egg safely exited Heidi's remaining fallopian tube and into the uterus, all things were normal.
Now, Camp can concentrate on baseball. Given Tampa Bay's bullpen struggles last season, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he expected to use Camp in many key roles.
Last season, he was the team's primary groundball reliever. He was used as a long man and in the setup role. But he lacked consistency, especially against left-handed hitters, who batted .370 against him.
"I think he's going to have a lot of appearances again this year," Maddon said. "As we get him to develop better against left-handed hitters, then he really becomes the quality relief pitcher he can be."
Camp has pitched mostly against left-handers this spring, testing a third pitch - a change-up to go with his slider and fastball - that they hope will help. So far, it has. Camp has allowed just one run in 92/3 innings for an ERA of 0.93, utilizing the change-up inside to lefties.
"There's a lot of learning, a lot of ups and downs," he said. "The big thing I've just been preaching to myself this spring is more consistency. Day in and day out, I didn't have the consistency I wanted to last year. In key situations, I want it to be where they don't have to make a change.
"I think you just have to be in that situation to know how you get out of it and to know what it takes to get out of it."
Meanwhile, Heidi Camp has been there, having attended most of her husband's games when he pitches, even the 90-minute trip to Winter Haven on Monday to watch Shawn pitch one-third of an inning.
"Sometimes he doesn't want me to drive because I'm pregnant, but I'm healthy now," she said.
And the Camps have already found out they are having a boy. His name: Garrett Benjamin.
So much for believing the odds.
"I think what I've learned is that life is a series of ups and downs," Heidi said. "We're up right now, but we could be down at any point. So I think we've learned to maintain a steady path and not get too high when we're up and too low when we're down."